Unreasonable Doubt: Despite the CNE’s Many Audits, Capriles Remains Dissatisfied

June 10, 2013

As we have previously noted, following the Venezuelan National Electoral Council’s (CNE’s) decision to conduct a full audit of voting receipts, as Henrique Capriles had originally demanded, Capriles reversed his position and announced he would boycott the audit. Concurrent with this shift, he began to focus on new demands: he wanted an audit of the voter registry and the fingerprint registry, claiming that such audits would be needed in order to ensure there had been not repeat voting. Capriles has not plausibly explained how such repeat voting would be possible in a system where there are two records: an electronic record and a paper record of voting receipts, and where each voter must first present identification and fingerprints before being allowed to vote.

Auditing all the remaining paper voting receipts is no simple task. The receipts must be brought in from all over the country to the Mariches storehouse where the audit is being conducted, and election monitors from the U.S. have noted that some of the boxes containing these receipts are even being carried by canoe from remote areas in the Amazon and elsewhere. While the CNE was consumed with this task over the past several weeks, Venezuelan opposition figures raised a cry, demanding to have the fingerprint registry examined.

Last week the CNE reaffirmed earlier reports that it would conduct this audit as well, the latest of about 20 audits demanded by the opposition to which the CNE has agreed. The CNE officials have said, however, that the fingerprint verification will take time, and they would be unlikely to release results until September. While Capriles’ call for the fingerprint audit have gained traction in the English language media, the CNE officials’ announcements that they plan to conduct such an audit have not. As we have noted, there has been very little reporting on the audits in the U.S. and U.K. press in general, from the just completed audit of all the remaining voting receipts, to the 18 audits demanded by the opposition (and carried out by the CNE), mostly carried out before the election. The most recent — and very brief — reference to the audits in Reuters, for example, inverts the opposition’s shifting demands to put the blame on the election’s winner: “Maduro originally accepted a proposal for a full audit of the close April election which he won, but then backtracked and has since hardened his stance.”

In response to the scarcity of media coverage of the audit process – and the English language media’s ignoring of a statistical analysis that shows it would be all but impossible for the full voting receipt audit to find enough discrepancies to overturn the election results, on Friday, 14 economists and other academics issued an open letter to the media calling for the reporting of “overwhelming statistical evidence” that shows that Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro won the April 14 elections as verified by the CNE. Signers include James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas, Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Gerald Epstein, Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (also in Massachusetts). The letter concludes:

It does not make sense to ignore this overwhelming statistical evidence, as the Obama administration, and almost all major U.S. media outlets, have done.  As a result of this omission, many if not most Americans believe that the election was stolen or that the result is somehow in question.  This is simply not believable in the face of the actual evidence.

This audit, of the remaining 46 percent of voting receipts, is now finished, and as predicted by the statistical analysis, the result confirms Maduro’s 1.49 percentage point victory over Capriles. In reporting on the audit’s completion, however, the Associated Press’ Christopher Toothaker mentioned Capriles’ demand for the fingerprint registry audit but again ignored the CNE’s plans to conduct the audit:

The opposition has complained that the council ignored its demand for a full recount. That would have included not just comparing votes electronically registered by machines with the paper ballot receipts they emitted, but also comparing those with the poll station registries that contain voter signatures and with digitally recorded fingerprints.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan state media reports that CNE Vice President Sandra Oblitas noted that the opposition has participated in biometric data audits last year ahead of the presidential election in October, municipal elections in December, and the presidential election this year in April. Opposition media reports from last year seem to confirm that Venezuela’s opposition MUD coalition participated in auditing the biometric registry last summer prior to the October elections.

The onus should be on Capriles to explain why suddenly he is so dissatisfied with the previous fingerprint and audits in which his own party coalition representatives took part. As for the CNE’s plans for the new fingerprint registry audit to verify that there was no repeat voting, it remains to be seen whether Capriles will be satisfied with that, or if he will continue to have even more demands of Venezuela’s electoral authorities before he finally accepts the inevitable.

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